Standards with a Side Effect How girls today are facing multiple problems due to gender stereotypes

By: Ava Gristina

When you think of a computer scientist, do you picture a man or a woman? What about when you think about a stay at home parent? More often than not, most people will think of a man when they are told to imagine a computer scientist, whereas they assume the stay at home parent will be female. Those are two of the many ingrained stereotypes that exist today surrounding gender. While these outdated ideals may seem like no big deal, they do have an effect. Girls are now left to deal with multiple problems caused by these “harmless” gender stereotypes.

The Underlying Ideals

There are various kinds of stereotypes, but some are more common and well known than others. The article “The Future of the Gender Bend,” by the New York Times, states that many women today cling onto the supposedly feminine value of caring for others, such as being a stay-at-home mother. This is one of the basic ideals for how a woman “should” behave, but is still considered “too feminine” for a man. The article also mentions how in the U.S., computer science and engineering are considered as male territory. These are a few of the basic stereotypes among the two genders. They mostly revolve around men having careers in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM), while having women not really working in these areas, but rather staying at home to take care of their kids. And while all of these ideals and expectations may seem like harmless ideas, they do have a crippling effect. All stereotypes have been, and still are influencing both genders and how they really think.

Early Age Affects

More often than not, ideals and stereotypes are affecting education around the US. The American Educational Research Association (AERA) recently released a report on the gender gap starting all the way back in kindergarten. It also discovered that teachers foresee boys to be more resilient in math than girls. Two groups, composed of thousands of students from 1998-1999 and 2010-2011 were in the study. From these groups, students took tests that found the math skills of students. Teachers were also interviewed on how well the students were doing in 10 individual fields. All of this research came from a federal government study. What they found is that over the span of 12 years, the gender gap still remains in the classroom.

Jumbled and Skewed Expectations

Not only do these stereotypes have an effect in school; they continue to have an impact past college and in careers. A charity, Young Enterprise, released a report - Youth Employment: a Gender Divide - which looks at how in secondary education the growing gender gap eventually leads to the workspace. In this report they included a survey, which yielded surprising results. The survey data has been related to business confidence, says the charity. In fact, there is a big gap between pay expectations in first jobs among boys and girls. Input from the survey found that the bulk of girls - 71 percent - anticipate to obtain less than $25,000 annually from their first job. On the other hand, only 52 percent of boys believed the same idea. The survey continues, revealing how 28 percent of boys expect to make more than $31,000 annually, while how only a sparse 13 percent of girls think they will to make over $31,000 each year in their first job. Girls also relayed how gender stereotypes lower their confidence in taking leadership roles, a quarter of them commenting that the domination of classroom discussion mostly goes to boys. Gender ideals isn’t some minor topic that has no major effect. Instead, it lasts through all ages.

Where Now?

V\While gender stereotypes do continue to have an impact, there have been actions toward stopping them. Organizations like Girls Who Code along with efforts to rewire teachers’ thinking has been a huge step forward in ending this dilemma. Lots of focus has been put on getting girls engrossed in STEM. The Girls Who Code organization has continuously provided guidance for teachers so that they can anticipate and deal with these matters. Over the past 30 years we’ve seen the gender gap close ends in fields of law and medicine. If gender stereotypes can be eliminated in major career areas, then it is beyond any doubt that they can be removed in any other job or education.

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